Why is Trump allowed back on Facebook and will Meta’s ‘guardrails’ contain him?

Meta’s leadership say the risk has ‘sufficiently receded’, as the former US president has the ban on his accounts lifted for the first time in two years

Former US president Donald Trump will have the ban on his Facebook and Instagram accounts lifted for the first time in two years, parent company Meta has announced. But what are the “guardrails” it says will deter repeat offences, what will it mean for the platform, and what would it take for him to be banned again?

Why is Trump being allowed back?

In short: the safety situation is not what it was on 6 January 2021, the day of the Capitol riots. Meta’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said in a blog post on Wednesday that the company had determined the risk had “sufficiently receded”, and as a result, the ban would be lifted “in the coming weeks”.

However, Clegg said there would be new “guardrails” in place to deter Trump or other public figures from acting in similar ways in future.

What are these ‘guardrails’?

Meta has updated its policy on restricting accounts that violate the guidelines on Facebook or Instagram, with special rules for public figures during times of civil unrest.

Normally people can be restricted from posting for between one and 30 days, but it can be permanent if severe enough or if it comes despite repeated warnings.

But public figures will have stronger controls. This includes government officials, political candidates, and people with over a million followers. The types of violations could include inciting or celebrating ongoing violence or civil unrest.

The type of violation – and the public figure’s influence over the people involved in the violence – will determine the length of the restriction, which will be between one month and two years. Meta said most violations will put a public figure in a one-month time-out from posting.

A serious violation that would result in a one-year ban would be activity such as sharing a link to a statement from a terrorist group after an attack. The more severe the violence or attack, the more likely the ban will be the full two years.

Other action might be more mild. Clegg said if, for instance, Trump references QAnon content, the distribution of that content would be limited, and Meta would restrict his ability to advertise.

Why was Trump banned from Facebook?

Trump was banned from Meta’s Facebook and Instagram platforms after the US Capitol riots on 6 January 2021. Despite the escalating violence on the day, Trump persisted in posting unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election had been stolen, and praised the violent protesters at the attempted insurrection.

In a statement posted to Facebook the next day, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, said it was clear at the time that Trump “intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power” and the risks of allowing Trump to continue to use the service “are simply too great”.

A block was placed on Trump’s accounts indefinitely, but then Meta gave the final decision on whether to keep the ban in place to the Facebook Oversight board – a body designed to make final decisions on Facebook’s moderation activity at arm’s length from Meta management.

The board ruled that the ban should remain in place, but said the final decision on whether Trump be readmitted should be decided by Meta.

The board suggested Meta should decide within six months, but Meta opted to wait two years from the original ban on 7 January 2021.

Has Trump been allowed back on any other platforms?

In the aftermath of 6 January 2021, Trump was also banned from Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat. So far, only Twitter has lifted its ban.

Twitter lifted its ban in November 2022, after the company’s new owner, Elon Musk, conducted a Twitter poll which elected to remove the ban by a slim majority.

Trump has not tweeted since the ban was lifted. He continues to post on his own social media platform, Truth Social. Trump agreed that all posts he makes on the site will have an exclusivity period of six hours before they can be posted on other sites. But that agreement expires in June, and Rolling Stone has reported that Trump is preparing to return to Twitter as he readies his campaign for the 2024 presidential election.

Trump Media and Technology Group CEO Devin Nunes has claimed, however, that Trump has “no interest” in returning to Twitter.


Josh Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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